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2016 Nats roster outlook: Will Daniel Murphy improve the lineup?


2016 Nats roster outlook: Will Daniel Murphy improve the lineup?

Age on Opening Day 2016: 31

How acquired: Signed as free agent, Dec. 2015

2016 salary: $8 million

2015 stats: 130 G, 538 PA, 56 R, 140 H, 38 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 73 RBI, 2 SB, 31 BB, 38 SO, .281 BA, .322 OBP, .449 SLG, .770 OPS, 113 OPS+, 6 E, 1.4 WAR

2016 storyline: For all the talk about the Nationals have a terrible offseason and how they swung-and-missed on all their free agent targets, they did technically reel in one of the best players available this winter and he does fill a need both as a second baseman and a left-handed hitter. That would be Daniel Murphy, who in 2016 will play the first season of his three-year, $37.5 million contract with Washington.

Murphy joins the Nationals from the rival New York Mets as a contact-hitting infielder who can play multiple positions on defense. In 2016, it would not be surprising at all to see him play some at first base if Ryan Zimmerman gets injured, some at third if Anthony Rendon goes down, and perhaps even some in the outfield. With the way the Nats have gone with injuries in recent years, anything is possible. Just ask Danny Espinosa.

Murphy brings playoff experience and smarts to the Nationals clubhouse. As GM Mike Rizzo would argue, he may bring a little "grit" as well. Despite playing for many losing teams in New York, he now knows what it takes to make a deep playoff run after helping lead the Mets to the World Series in 2016.

Best-case scenario: One of the things the Nats like about Murphy is his consistency. But one area he could improve on this season, if the playoffs were any indication, are his power numbers. Murphy set a career-high during the 2015 regular season with 14 homers and then added seven more in the playoffs. That's a total of 21 home runs in 144 games played, 130 regular season games and 14 more in the playoffs.

Was that a sign of more to come? When asked if that could be the case earlier this month, Rizzo quipped: "[Playoff homers] count too, don't they?" 

If that's any indication, the Nationals think they could have a player who is developing into a 20-homer guy. Murphy himself credited his power surge with an adjustment in his swing. Perhaps that was the fix he needed to unleash his previously dormant power.

Worst-case scenario: Murphy has played his entire career in New York, so there is always the chance that a change of scenery affects him. But given his steady career numbers, that would seem unlikely.

What could more realistically present problems for the Nationals, however, is his defense. It is his biggest knock and the Nats were already a below-average defensive team in 2015 based on several categories including defensive runs saved, where they placed 23rd. They were also 21st in defensive efficiency. As far as their middle infield, they were 27th in double plays turned.

Murphy will probably have the luxury of playing with Espinosa as his double-play partner and Espinosa could help mask some of Murphy's issues with range by snagging balls up the middle. But it will be interesting to see how he plays with Trea Turner, if and when Turner sees time at shortstop. Turner committed 21 errors in 111 total games last year split between three levels, including the majors. He is still learning defense and pairing him with Murphy could present problems up the middle for the Nats.

Most-likely scenario: As mentioned above, you generally know what you are going to get each season with Murphy. He is durable and usually plays 140 games per season or more. He is almost always in the .280 to .290 range. Usually you can look for double-digit homers and an OPS above .730.

Murphy is also very good at not striking out. He led the majors with a 97.5 contact percentage on pitches in the zone last season. A .285 batting average may not win him the MVP award, but his approach could help improve the Nats lineup by cutting down on strikeouts and putting the ball in play.

[RELATED: Bryce Harper gives emotional acceptance speech for MVP award]

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

Remember Jim Riggleman, the infamous Nats manager that resigned from the position back in 2011 after a win against the Seattle Mariners? Well he's back in a managerial position.

Bryan Price was fired as manager of the Cinncinati Reds Thursday, after the team started the 2018 season 3-15. Riggleman, who spent four seasons as their bench coach, was named the interim manager to replace Price.

Riggleman was promoted to interim manager of the Nats in July of 2009, after Manny Acta was let go midseason. He stayed on as manager for 2010 and 2011, and he then resigned from the team on June 23, 2011 after a win agaisnt the Seattle Mariners. He had lead the team to a win in 11 of their last 12 games prior to stepping away.

The reason behind the dramatic exit was due to the organization not yet picking up his 2012 contract option. He had reportedly requested a conversation with the front office about his future with the organization, and was upset after they declined. At 58 years-old, he felt he deserved more respect.

He's been with the Reds organization since 2012, and has spent time managing the Padres, Cubs and Mariners, in addition to the Nationals. His career winning pct. with each team has been below-.500.


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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes launched a grand slam during a nine-run outburst in the eighth inning that rallied the New York Mets past the Washington Nationals 11-5 on Wednesday night, preventing a three-game sweep.

Todd Frazier tied it at 4 with a two-run single and pinch-hitter Juan Lagares put New York ahead for the first time with a two-run double off ineffective setup man Ryan Madson (0-2).

Shut down by Tanner Roark for seven innings, the first-place Mets broke loose in the eighth and improved to 13-4 with a stirring victory against their NL East rivals.

Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Nationals, who pulled off their own big comeback in the eighth inning of the series opener.

Two nights later, New York returned the favor.

Roark limited the Mets to two hits and left leading 4-2. Michael Conforto, Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera singled off Madson to load the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Jay Bruce fouled out before Frazier smacked a two-run single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw home.

After an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases again, pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores struck out. Lagares then lined a two-run double the other way, just inside the right-field line at the outer edge of the infield grass, to put the Mets up 6-4.

Sammy Solis walked Amed Rosario and Conforto to force in a run. Cespedes connected for his sixth career slam -- the third by the Mets already this season -- off A.J. Cole, sending fans into a frenzy.

Both of Cespedes' hits in the inning came on 0-2 pitches.

AJ Ramos (1-1) worked a perfect inning for his first win with the Mets since being acquired from Miami last July.

Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single for Washington in the first and Bryce Harper drew his 24th walk, most in the majors. Zimmerman, batting .121 at that point and struggling to make opponents pay for bypassing Harper, came through with a drive to left-center off Steven Matz for his second home run of the season.

Matz steadied himself after a 33-pitch first inning and retired his final 10 batters. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth after throwing 74 pitches.

Cabrera doubled to open the fourth and scored on Gonzalez's single. Zimmerman had a chance to start an inning-ending double play, but his throwing error from first base allowed another run to score on Jose Lobaton's RBI grounder as the Mets cut it to 3-2.

After Mets pitchers retired 16 in a row, Zimmerman's leadoff triple in the seventh got past a diving Bruce in right field, and Moises Sierra followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Zimmerman also hit a solo homer in the ninth.